Posts Tagged With: Egypt

H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 60: Agatha Christie slept in this Egyptian hotel

Less than two weeks from today, I’ll be auditioning for the quiz show “Jeopardy!” That audition will take place in Washington, D.C. Of course, Washington is just a hop, a skip, and a jump from my home base of New York City, compared to some of the destinations to which my adventures have taken me.

For example, today’s featured image comes from Aswan, Egypt, about 433 miles south of Cairo but nearly 6,000 miles from Manhattan. Standing on the east bank of the Nile in Aswan is the The Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan hotel. Before it was a Sofitel property, when it was simply the Old Cataract, this was the hostelry in which Agatha Christie, sitting on the terrace of her guestroom, penned her novel Death on the Nile. The hotel’s ballroom also appeared in the 1978 film based on that novel.


The Old Cataract was built in 1889, and in addition to Ms. Christie, its roster of distinguished guests through the years has included the likes of Tsar Nicholas II; Winston Churchill; Howard Carter (the guy who discovered King Tut’s tomb); Margaret Thatcher; Princess Diana; and Jimmy Carter. The hotel was expanded over the years, and was extensively renovated and restored from 2008 through 2011. This photo of it was taken during my visit to Egypt in September 2012. I did not, myself, lodge in this 5-star property; I was on a cruise down the Nile, during which I slept aboard the boat.

Do you like staying in historic hotels?

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 43: magnificent columns in an Egyptian temple

I hope you’re all having a great Friday. Earlier this week I celebrated my birthday, and I’m looking forward to another year filled with adventure!

This week’s featured image comes from a country that’s synonymous with adventure: Egypt. Specifically, it’s a photograph taken at the Temple of Hathor — a Greco-Roman temple complex in Dendera. The portion of that temple known as the Large Hypostyle Hall contains columns that are approximately 50 feet high:


Although parts of the temple date back to the third century B.C., the Large Hypostyle Hall was added during the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, who ruled from 14 A.D. to 37 A.D. (It’s believed that earlier temples also dedicated to Hathor were built on the same site as early as 4,000 years ago.) Hathor was a deity worshipped by the ancient Egyptians who was typically depicted with bovine features. She was the goddess of love, joy, and motherhood.

This photo was taken during my trip to Egypt in September 2012. Dendera, the location of the temple, is about 50 miles from Luxor.

Are you awed by grand structures like this that were built thousands of years ago?

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, week 30: a transported temple in Egypt

Greetings. It’s Friday, my favourite day of the week! And as we approach the beginning of autumn here in New York City, we’ve been enjoying spectacular weather. I hope it’s nice where you are, too.

Today we have a new weekly photo. Our latest featured image comes from Abu Simbel in the southern part of Egypt. In that town you can find a pair of temples. Here’s a glimpse at the façade of the larger of the two, known as the Great Temple:


The two temples at the site were constructed in the 13th century B.C. under the direction of the pharaoh Ramses II, also known as Ramses the great; four statues of him sit in front of the façade. Each of the statues is some 66 feet in height.

The temples were originally built on the shore of the Nile; but after standing there for over 3,000 years, they had to be moved when the Aswan High Dam was built in the 1960s, in order to avoid being submerged. (The construction of the dam resulted in the creation of Lake Nasser, the largest man-made lake in the world, which inundated the area where the temples had stood). The temples were broken down into blocks and reassembled on higher ground; the relocation, a truly amazing feat of engineering, took about four years.

This photo was taken during my visit to Egypt in September 2012. At that time — 19 months after the revolution that deposed President Hosni Mubarak — conditions in Egypt were relatively stable, and it was safe for tourists such as me to visit most areas of the country. But in July 2013, Mubarak’s democratically elected successor, Mohamed Morsi, was himself ousted, and much turmoil and strife have ensued. For the sake of the Egyptian people — a people that I found to be friendly and hospitable — I hope that peace and stability will soon return to their land.

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Touring Egypt, part 4: the earliest Egyptian pyramid in Saqqara, plus the ancient capital of Memphis

The pyramids in Giza date back over 4,500 years, a scale of time that can be difficult to comprehend. But none of the Gizan monuments can claim to be the oldest pyramid in Egypt. That distinction goes to the step pyramid built for King Djoser. You’ll find it in Saqqara, which, like Giza, is an easy day-trip from Cairo (Saqqara lies about 19 miles south of Cairo’s downtown). Saqqara is not a city; it’s a giant necropolis that, in antiquity, served the corpse-disposal needs of the nearby city of Memphis. During my September 2012 vacation to Egypt, my tour group spent a morning in the remains of Saqqara and Memphis.


Djoser’s step pyramid: a trend-setter

The centerpiece of Saqqara is the step pyramid, which was completed before Djoser’s death in 2611 B.C. — thereby predating the pyramids in Giza by about 100 years. It features a more primitive “step” pattern, rather than the smooth sides of most pyramids you’ll see.

Djoser's step pyramid at Saqqara.

Djoser’s step pyramid at Saqqara.

Although it has bragging rights within Egypt, this edifice might not be the absolute oldest pyramid in the world. Continue reading

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Touring Egypt, part 3: tomb raiding in the Valley of the Kings

Tut tutMany people have witnessed the fabulous treasures that were recovered from King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Some of those artifacts have gone on traveling exhibitions that toured the world beginning in the 1970s (just ask Steve Martin); and the collection — including the famous gold funerary mask — is permanently housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

It’s comparatively rare to stand in the presence of King Tut himself. Unlike the stuff that was buried with him, the most legendary of all Egyptian monarchs still remains (in mummified form) in the subterranean chamber in which he was deposited following his death in 1323 B.C. That tomb can be found in the area known as the Valley of the Kings. My wanderings through Egypt in September 2012 included a visit to that valley, and the unique chance to gain an audience with King Tut.

A really upscale (and really old) cemetery

The Valley of the Kings is a sprawling necropolis on a desert plain on the west bank of the Nile River, near the city of Luxor and about 300 miles south of Cairo. In ancient times, the full name of the site was “The Great and Majestic Necropolis of the Millions of Years of the Pharaoh, Life, Strength, Health in The West of Thebes.” (Thebes, one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the Bronze Age world, was a precursor to Luxor.) This particular burial ground was quite exclusive; the only people laid to rest within its confines were kings and select noble personages. (Nearby is a separate Valley of the Queens, in which wives and children of pharaohs found eternal repose.) Its clients received accommodations befitting the stations they had occupied while alive; most of the tombs are voluminous and elaborately decorated.

Entering the Valley of the Kings.

Entering the Valley of the Kings.

The first corpse to be interred in the Valley of the Kings was probably that of Thutmosis I, who perished around 1500 B.C. The last tomb constructed at the site was built for Ramses XI, who passed away in 1078 or 1077 B.C., but it’s believed that he wasn’t buried in it.

Like the pyramids in Giza, the tombs were a tourist draw even in antiquity. Continue reading

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H-Bomb’s Friday Photo, Week 14: a lesser-known Sphinx in Egypt

We’ve made it through another week. And that means it’s time for our latest featured photo! Today’s image comes from Memphis, the second capital of Egypt (it held that status from roughly 2950 B.C. to 2180 B.C.). The Great Sphinx at Giza, which I also visited, is justly world-renowned; but there’s another sphinx in Memphis that has also endured through the ages.

the alabaster sphinx in Memphis

It’s not nearly as large as the one at Giza (it’s only about 26 feet long and 13 feet high, in contrast to the Great Sphinx at Giza which is 241 feet long); and it’s quite a bit younger (it’s believed to have been chiseled sometime between 1700 BC and 1400 BC, which means that the Memphis sphinx may have been built over a thousand years later than its Gizan counterpart). It’s been dubbed the Alabaster Sphinx, although it’s actually made out of calcite, a mineral that’s merely similar to alabaster.

This photo was taken during my trip to Egypt in September 2012.

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Touring Egypt, part 2: staring across the abyss of time in Giza

Previously in this ongoing series about my September 2012 holiday in Egypt, I recounted my impressions of the capital city of Cairo. (Seriously, if you haven’t read that one yet, you should do so immediately!) Now we proceed to Giza, the featured attraction of my sojourn in the Land of the Pharaohs. We’re still just getting started; there are many more Egyptian locales that I still need to get around to covering in this series!

The pyramids at Giza have been tourist magnets since the days of the Roman empire, making them among the very first travel hotspots in world history. (International tourism originated during Roman times.) One of the joys of my own visit to the Giza Plateau was the knowledge that I was gazing upon the very same sights that had allured and mystified a hundred generations of travelers before me. While I took in countless spectacular things during my fortnight in Egypt, the ruins at Giza surpassed just about everything else. During the course of my stays in Cairo, I made three separate excursions to Giza; but I would eagerly go back yet again if the chance arose.


Meet the pyramids

Three principal pyramids rise up from the stretch of desert known as the Giza Plateau, which is about 10 miles from Cairo’s city center. All were erected in the 26th century B.C.

• The largest and most celebrated is, of course, the Great Pyramid, which was built for King Khufu (also known to us as Cheops, the Hellenized version of his name). Originally soaring to a height of 481 feet, the Great Pyramid stood as the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, until eclipsed by England’s Lincoln Cathedral in 1311 A.D. (Erosion has since reduced the height of the Great Pyramid to a still-impressive 455 feet.) The Great Pyramid has gained particular renown as the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that still survives intact in modern times.

• The second-biggest is the pyramid of Khufu’s son, Khafre (known alternatively by his Greek name of Chefren); at 448 feet it’s nearly as tall as the Great Pyramid itself. (Prior to erosion, Khafre’s pyramid topped out at 471 feet.)

• The bronze for third-largest goes to the pyramid of Khafre’s son, Menkaure (a pharaoh who also goes by the Hellenized name of Mykerinos); its height is 204 feet, down from 215 feet before the ravaging effects of erosion did their thing.

In addition to the main pyramidal trinity, the site contains several much smaller buildings in that shape, known as “Queen’s Pyramids” (in reference to the personages who were buried in them); and a variety of other, more conventional tombs. (The three largest pyramids were, themselves, conceived as mausoleums for the kings who decreed their construction. The mummies of those kings have never been found; their remains may have been purloined by grave-robbers in the distant past. Whether those grave-robbers succumbed to the curse of the mummy is anyone’s guess.)

The world’s first skyline. Left to right: the Great Pyramid; the pyramid of Khafre; and the pyramid of Menkaure. One of the Queen’s Pyramids is visible at the extreme right.

My tour group in front of the Great Pyramid.

The pyramids are remarkable works of engineering that surely deserve to be considered among the world’s first great works of architecture. As with Stonehenge and the moai of Easter Island, we’re not completely sure how they were built, in light of the primitive technology available to the society that designed them. It’s no wonder that, when writing a midterm examination in a freshman year history course at university, I speculated that benevolent space aliens assisted the ancient Egyptians in the construction of their iconic monuments. (I received an “F” on that exam, but it’s not my fault that my professor wasn’t open to my revisionist scholarship.) 🙂

My experience visiting Giza’s pyramids wasn’t limited to admiring them from the outside. Continue reading

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Touring Egypt, part 1: Cairo, gateway to historic Egypt

A visit to the pyramids at Giza is a marquee item on many bucket lists. Indeed, the pyramids were one of the destinations that the dying old men visited in the crappy Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman movie that inspired the whole bucket list craze in the first place. To be sure, seeing the pyramids up close and personal is a surpassing experience (and one which is covered in my next post). But there’s much more to Egypt than those piles of limestone bricks in the desert. This is the first in a series of articles in which I’ll comprehensively recap my two week tour of a magical land that’s been around since the dim mists of recorded history. That tour took place in September 2012. (As sort of a prologue to the series, I wrote about how Egypt became country no. 25 on my World Karaoke Tour. Check out that article to find out what happened when I sang “Walk Like An Egyptian” in Egypt!) Today’s subject is Cairo, the capital city in which my adventure got underway. Future installments will cover the other checkpoints on my Egyptian itinerary: not only Giza, but also Luxor, Karnak, Dendara, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Philae, the Valley of the Kings, Aswan, Abu Simbel, Memphis, and Saqqara. And I’ll also write about my cruise on the Nile, that wonderful liquid highway by which I reached many of those immortal locales.

Last month, an article in the New York Times travel section discussed the idea of sharing moments with history. The concept is that when you travel to an area that’s steeped in history, your journey isn’t only geographic; you’re also transported along a temporal dimension. Egypt works particularly well as such a time machine; wherever in the country you go, you find yourself in the long shadow of the past. And Cairo is the perfect gateway to that time machine. It’s a 21st-century megacity that sits, in part, on land mentioned in the Old Testament; and in it you can commune with various historical moments along the continuum between the Bronze Age and modernity. (Hat tip to one of my favourite travel bloggers, Jenna Francisco of “This Is My Happiness”, for bringing to my attention the aforementioned Times article and its notion of communing with history.)

Before I could explore all that history, I had to overcome fears stoked by a present-day crisis. Just days before I was supposed to be in Cairo, anti-American demonstrations had flared up at the U.S. embassy there. Some of the footage that the TV news channels were broadcasting looked pretty frightening. I wondered: should I reconsider my trip? Since you’re reading this article now, I obviously proceeded to go. And I was so happy that I did!

Once I arrived in Egypt, it quickly became apparent that the perils were overblown and overhyped by the American media. The protests fizzled out within a few days and had always been minor in scope (involving only a few hundred people in a city with a metropolitan area population of nearly 19 million). Ultimately, I never felt in danger in Cairo or anywhere else in Egypt. To the contrary, all the locals I met were friendly and hospitable. What’s more, to the extent the subject of my nationality came up, Egyptians uniformly had good things to say about the United States. That made me very glad that I didn’t act ashamed of where I was from or pretend to be from Canada (as one of my Facebook friends had actually suggested I do — not that I would have ever considered putting a maple leaf on my daypack). Anywhere I go, even in my home city of New York, I just have to exercise common sense and appropriate caution. Egypt, including Cairo, turned out to be no different in this regard. (One factor that enhanced my sense of well-being in Cairo: both hotels there in which I stayed were like fortresses. You’re required to pass through a metal detector every time you enter; bomb-sniffing dogs are on hand; and vehicles, including taxis, that pull up into the hotel’s driveway must pop their trunks open for inspection. And it’s not just the hotels; metal detectors are ubiquitous at the entrances to tourist sites throughout Egypt, although outside of Cairo, those screening checkpoints are frequently unattended and disregarded.)

The thing that can legitimately be deadly in Cairo is the traffic. Continue reading

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Country no. 25 on my World Karaoke Tour: I sang like an Egyptian

Greetings, readers. I’m currently in Egypt. Earlier this week, this storied Land of the Pharaohs became country no. 25 on my World Karaoke Tour! And I’m here now to tell you how it all went down. I’ve been taking plenty of photos on this 2-week trip that I’m now in the middle of; in upcoming articles I’ll post many of those pictures, and I’ll talk about the stunning historical sights that I’ve been seeing. But the focus today, in my initial dispatch from Egypt, is on my experience of the Egyptian karaoke scene. Priorities! 🙂

Night no. 1: Giza

I’ve actually sung in Egypt on two different evenings so far. My Egyptian karaoke debut occurred on Monday, September 17, 2012 at the Laguna Lounge Cafe & Restaurant in Mohandessin, a neighbourhood in Giza (Giza being internationally renowned as the city in which you’ll find the Great Pyramid and Great Sphinx). Continue reading

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What I did in Lisbon after I put down the mic

Lisbon is a beautiful city. Its combination of vintage buildings and sweeping hills, together with its location on a major port, supply its aesthetic charm. When you factor in the cable cars (known locally as trams) that traverse the hilly streets of its downtown, Lisbon bears more than a superficial resemblance to San Francisco, a city to which it is often compared (The two cities also share a delightful Mediterranean climate. A further point of similarity: while San Francisco is much more famous for its seismic hazards, Lisbon suffered a catastrophic earthquake in 1755, with a magnitude estimated to have been as high as 9.0, that helped inspire Voltaire’s Candide. If you visit either city, you risk being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the next Big One strikes).

And like San Francisco, Lisbon has now been a stop on my World Karaoke Tour. I sang on my very first night in Lisbon, a Friday night. I was staying in town through the following Monday morning. How did I occupy the rest of my long weekend? Continue reading

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It’s time to get things started!

Shown here is my most recent international singing experience, in Mexico City in May 2011.  The scene depicted in this photo occurred at a bar called “Pedro Infante no ha Muerto.”  The name of the bar means “Pedro Infante hasn’t died.”  In case you’re wondering who Pedro Infante is, Wikipedia states that “José Pedro Infante Cruz . . ., better known as Pedro Infante, is the most famous actor and singer of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema.” Wikipedia also tells us that notwithstanding the optimistic outlook of the bar’s proprietors, Señor Infante departed this world in 1957. Anyway, I think that “Pedro Infante no ha Muerto” is a pretty cool name for a watering hole.  What wasn’t cool was how, when I was trying to get back to my hotel at the end of the night, my cabdriver robbed me, forced me to get out of the taxi, and left me in the middle of nowhere.  But that’s a story for another time.

Hello and welcome to H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke!  This site was created to document my ongoing World Karaoke Tour.  I have sung karaoke in 23 countries on six continents, plus Easter Island; and within the United States I’ve performed at karaoke venues in 12 states plus the District of Columbia.  You may have noticed that I mentioned six continents, one fewer than the total number that the Earth has.  The missing continent — for now — is Antarctica, but I will get there eventually.

Yes, there’s a place to sing in Antarctica. Gallagher’s, a bar located on the scientific research base McMurdo Station, offers weekly karaoke nights.  It’s not easy to get there; most tourists who visit Antarctica arrive by sea, and McMurdo is on the opposite side of the Antarctic continent from the place where you would alight if you arrived on a cruise ship from South America.  So transportation is a challenge, to say the least.  And it’s no easier to find lodging for such an extreme destination. There are no hotels on Antarctica — let alone at McMurdo Station — that you can book through a site like Expedia or Orbitz. Well, to be more accurate, there are no hotels at all.  But despite such daunting obstacles, singing on the seventh continent is absolutely a bucket list item for me.  I will find a way to make it happen.

I sing karaoke under the stage name “H-Bomb.”  I’ve been performing under that nom de guerre since the fall of 1992.  Back then — in the mists of time, when the United States was the only country in which I had ever done karaoke — I was a first-year law student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  On Thursday nights I would sometimes go out for karaoke at an establishment called the Jennifer Street pub, in the Dupont Circle neighborhood where I was living.  My actual name is Harvey, and so naturally I would write that name on the song slips that I handed to the KJ.  On one such Thursday evening, the KJ didn’t care for my singing.  Each time that it was my turn to sing, when he would call me up to the stage, instead of calling me by the name I’d written down, he would summon me as “H-Bomb.”  He meant it as an insult.  But I immediately saw the possibilities of becoming a weapon of mass destruction.  Despite the origins of the sobriquet, I readily embraced it, and I’ve been singing as the H-Bomb ever since.  My identity as the H-Bomb has permeated my life; my handles on internet message boards usually begin with those letters, and even at work, it is not unusual for colleagues to refer to me as the H-Bomb.

I said that I’ve been singing as the H-Bomb since 1992.  And that is mostly true.  But there is one exception:  In 2008, when I visited Japan, I thought that to sing under the name of an atomic bomb might not show sufficient respect for cultural sensitivities.  : )  So, at those Tokyo karaoke bars, I sang as “Godzilla” instead.

My next scheduled international trip will take me to Lisbon, Portugal for New Year’s weekend 2012.  I also am scheduled to travel to Egypt in February 2012 for a cruise on the Nile (I was originally supposed to go to Egypt in February 2011, but as you probably know, a revolution erupted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square in the early part of that month.  Egypt’s version of the Arab Spring resulted in the cancellation of my tour, and I went to Morocco instead, while rebooking the Nile cruise for one year later.  As my delayed Egyptian vacation approaches, the political situation in Egypt continues to be unstable, and I am monitoring it closely). I hope to fit in some singing during both of those upcoming excursions.  As I add additional locations to my World Karaoke Tour, I will post updates on this site — with photographs and videos!

And the updates will not only be about my singing.  My karaoke wanderlust is about satisfying two of my great passions:  karaoke and travel.  So when I am on the road, I will blog about the sights that I’m exploring during the daylight hours, as well as the venues where I grab a mic in the evening.

Between trips, I will use this site to report on my karaoke adventures on the home front; and in the beginning while we’re getting caught up, I will reminisce about my international karaoke experiences to date.  Much has happened since the magical night in June 1993 when an outing to the Duke of Argyll pub in London made the United Kingdom the first foreign country on my World Karaoke Tour. : )  I will also blog about my general thoughts on all things karaoke.

I envision this blog being interactive.  I’m generally very good at finding karaoke spots in my travel destinations — usually well in advance of my departure.  But sometimes, especially in non-English-speaking countries, finding a singing venue is quite challenging for me.  I look forward to a time when my readers in far-flung locales will advise me — and each other — on where to sing in every corner of the globe.  Maybe I’m being unduly optimistic, but that’s the way I roll.

Last week, I visited the Louis Armstrong house in the Corona section of Queens, New York. This unassuming brick edifice (seen in the photo on the left) is the actual home in which the great Satchmo lived with his wife, Lucille, for the final 28 or so years of his life (Lucille was actually his fourth wife, but by all accounts she was the great love of his life). You can see the rooms of the house, preserved as they were several decades ago when Mr. Armstrong was in residence. It was a fascinating tour. So, the tour guide was mentioning how Mr. Armstrong was the first musician who traveled all over the world to perform. That tidbit has provided further inspiration to me as I continue with my own, much more humble musical wanderings. And another thing: the guide claimed that Mr. Armstrong appeared on “every continent.” However, I strongly suspect that he never made it to Antarctica. So if I can make it down there, I have an opportunity to do something that even the legendary Louis Armstrong was unable to achieve. : )

Well, that should suffice for an introduction.  Thanks for your visit, and I hope to see you back here soon!  And I apologize for kicking things off with one of those cliched “hello, world!” posts.  I promise that some exciting new content is coming soon. This is only the beginning!

Happy singing,


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